Atticus Finch a Racist? – Early Reviews Say Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' Paints a Shocking Portrait of 'Mockingbird's' Hero

Readers may not recognize Atticus Finch in Lee's new novel

Photo: Stephen Shugerman/Getty

The Atticus Finch of Harper Lee‘s classic 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was a pillar of justice, morality and kindness.

But readers may not even recognize the aging Atticus who appears in the author’s long-awaited second novel, Go Set a Watchman, according to early reviews in USA Today and The New York Times.

In Watchman, a 26-year-old Scout returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City and is shocked to find that she and her father don’t see eye to eye on race and segregation.

Readers, too, will be shocked to see the beloved character redrawn as a racist who once attended a Klan meeting. At one point, Atticus asks his daughter, “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” In another cringe-worthy moment, he says, “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as people.”

The same man who nobly defends a black man unjustly accused of raping a young white woman in Mockingbird, declares in Watchman that he wants his home state “to be left alone to keep house without advice from the NAACP,” reports The New York Times.

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And this isn’t the only jarring difference in the new novel, which Lee actually wrote in the 1950s before Mockingbird and reworked at the request of her editor to focus on Scout’s early days in Alabama.

Fans were heartbroken to learn – in Watchman‘s first chapter, published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday – that Scout’s older brother, Jem, was no longer living.

Go Set a Watchman is set to go on sale on Tuesday.

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